A requester may seek information under the RTKL by written or oral requests to the RTKL Officer. A requester may, however, only pursue the relief and remedies provided under the RTKL following the submission of a written request. For purposes of this policy, written requests include requests submitted by mail, e-mail, fax or by hand delivery.
- Identify a name and address to which the Department should address its response;
- State that the request is being made pursuant to the RTKL;
- Be submitted orally in person or in person in a written form, by United States mail, e-mail or by telefacsimile; be sufficiently specific to enable the Department to ascertain which records are being requested;
- And be from a person that is a legal resident of the United States. The Department will accept requests submitted on the Department’s downloadable RTKL Request Form. Requestors may also submit the Request Form approved by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.
The regular business hours of the Department’s RTKL Office are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Any RTKL request received by the RTKL Office after the close of regular business hours shall be deemed to have been received by that office on the following business day.
The Department must provide a response to an RTKL request within five business days unless the Department determines that there is a need for an extension of time and sends an extension notice to the requester (as discussed in paragraph II.B., below). The day that an RTKL request is received is not counted for purposes of determining the five-business day period. The Department's next business day following receipt of an RTKL request will be the first day of the five-business day period for responding.
The Department will issue a response that: (1) grants the request; (2) denies the request; or (3) grants the request in part and denies it in part. If a written request is denied in whole or in part, the Department will issue a written response that includes an explanation of the procedure to follow if the requester chooses to appeal. If an oral request is denied in whole or in part, the Department will issue a written response that also includes a statement that no appeal lies from the denial based on the original form of the request. The written denial will also set forth the specific reasons for the denial, including a citation of supporting legal authority. If the denial is the result of a determination that the record requested is exempt from disclosure, the Department shall include specific reasons in the denial for such determination. Except where it sends an extension notice pursuant to this policy, the Department’s failure to issue a response within five business days of receipt of a request for access to a record shall be deemed to constitute a denial of that request. The Department may send a written response to a requester by United States mail, by hand (in person or by delivery service), by facsimile or by e-mail.
The Department’s RTKL Officer may grant access, in whole or in part, in a variety of statutorily permitted ways. The Department may provide a requester with access to inspect a public record (electronically or as otherwise maintained by the Department) and the opportunity to duplicate it. The RTKL Officer may also respond to an RTKL request by notifying the requester that the record is available through publically accessible electronic means. At the request of the requester, the RTKL Officer may duplicate and send a copy of the requested public record to the requester. Each of these options is a "response" for purposes of the RTKL, as is the Department's written notice to the requester denying, partially granting or partially denying access to a record.
B. Extension Notices
The Department may extend the time to respond to a request if the RTKL Officer determines that any of the following apply:
- The request requires redaction of a public record;
- The request requires retrieval of a record from a remote location;
- A response within the five-business day period cannot be accomplished due to bona fide staffing limitations, which limitations must be specified in the extension notice;
- A legal review is necessary to determine whether the record requested is subject to access under the RTKL;
- The requester has not complied with the Department’s policies regarding access to public records. In this situation, the time period for a response shall be tolled from the date of the Department’s extension notice informing the requester of the noncompliance until such time as the Department determines the requester has fully complied with its policies;
Prepayment of fees is required pursuant to IV.D. In this situation, the time period for the Department’s response shall be tolled from the date of the Department’s extension notice advising that prepayment of estimated fees is required until such time as payment of the fees is actually received; or
- The extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period.
If the RTKL Officer determines that an extension is warranted, the Department will send an extension notice to the requester on or before the last day of the five-business day period. The extension notice must: 1) state that the request is being reviewed and the reason for the review, or identify additional action required of requester pursuant to B.5 and B.6 above; 2) give an estimate of applicable fees owed when the record becomes available; and 3) state a reasonable date that a response is expected to be provided.
Except in cases where the Department requires additional action of the requester, such as prepayment of fees or compliance with policies, the extension notice will include a request that the requester agree in writing to the expected response date specified in the notice whenever that date is in excess of 30 days following the five days allowed for in Section 67.901 of the RTKL. In the event the requester does not agree in writing to the date specified in the notice, a request not granted by the 31st day following the five days allowed for in Section 67.901 of the RTKL will be deemed denied on that date.
The Department will not deny access to a record based upon the fact that portions of the record are not public records and, as a result, not subject to disclosure. The Department will redact the portions that are not public records and produce the portions that are public records.
The Department has the discretion to determine the building(s) and room(s) that will be used to provide a requester with access to the Department’s public records.
The Department will provide a public record to a requester in the medium requested, if the record exists in that medium. Otherwise, the public record will be provided in the medium in which it exists. If the public record is only available in an electronic form, the Department must print it out on paper if the requester so requests. The Department is authorized to collect fees in such instances pursuant to the fees schedule set forth in this policy.
The Department is not required to create a public record that does not already exist, nor is it required to compile, maintain, format, or organize a public record in a manner in which the Department does not currently do so.
E. Duplication of Public Records
The Department may either make copies itself or allow the requester to bring the necessary equipment to make its own copies. The Department may make its duplication equipment available to a requester but require that the requester operate the equipment; assign Department staff to make the duplications; or contract for duplication services and require the requester to pay the applicable rate.
F. Enhanced Electronic Access
If the Department offers enhanced electronic access to records in addition to making the records accessible for inspection and duplication by a requester as required by the RTKL, the Department may establish user fees specifically for the provision of the enhanced electronic access, but only to the extent that the enhanced electronic access is in addition to making the records accessible for inspection and duplication by a requester as required by the RTKL. The user fees for enhanced electronic access may be a flat rate, a subscription fee for a period of time, a per-transaction fee, a fee based on the cumulative time of system access or any other reasonable method and any combination thereof. The user fees for enhanced electronic access must be reasonable and may not be established with the intent or effect of excluding persons from access to records or duplicates thereof or of creating profit for the agency.
When a request is denied, whether in whole or in part, or deemed denied, the requester may file an appeal with the Department. This appeal must be in writing and must be filed with the Department within 15 business days of the date of the Department’s denial or deemed denial. The appeal must state the grounds upon which the requester asserts that the record is public, and should address any grounds stated by the Department for denying the request or any grounds stated in the Department’s extension notice that contains an expected response date in excess of 30 days following the five days allowed for in Section 67.901 of the RTKL.
A. Services Provided Applicable Fee
- Photocopying (one photocopy is a black and white copy of a standard (8.5 x 11”) page with content on one side or a black and white copy of one side of a standard page with content on both sides) $.20 per photocopy.
- Specialized document photocopying (photocopying of, for example, blueprints, color copies, non-standard sized pages).
- Provision of non-paper records (reproduction as a copy in the original medium or in paper form of a record maintained by the Department only in electronic media or any other non-paper medium).
- The lesser of the actual cost for duplication of the record in the original medium or the cost of reproducing it in a paper form (based upon the fee applicable under this policy for photocopying if the record were originally maintained in paper form). The Department will reproduce in the less costly medium unless the requester specifically asks that the record be provided in the more expensive medium.
- Certification of a Record $1.00 per record (not per page), exclusive of notarization fees.
- Mailing not greater than the actual cost of postage.
B. Statutory Fees
If a separate statute authorizes the Department to charge a set amount for a certain type of record, the Department may charge no more than that statutory amount.
C. Inspection of Redacted Records
If a requester wishes to inspect rather than receive a copy of a record and the record contains both public and non-public information, the Department will redact the non-public information. The Department will not charge the requester for the redaction. However, the Department may charge for the copies it must make of the redacted material in order for the requester to view the public record. The fee structure outlined above will apply. If, after inspecting the records, the requester chooses to obtain the copies, no additional fee will be charged.
D. Fee Limitations
Unless otherwise provided by statute, the Department may impose no fees other than as prescribed by this policy except for costs it necessarily incurs in complying with a request, and such fees must be reasonable. No fee will be imposed for the Department’s review of a record to determine whether the record is a public record, legislative record or financial record subject to access in accordance with the RTKL. No fee may be charged for searching for or retrieval of documents. The Department will not charge staff time or salary for complying with an RTKL request.
E. Payment and Prepayment of Fees
The Department will require payment of fees less than $100 at the time it provides the requester access to the public record. When the Department estimates that the fees to fulfill a request will exceed $100, its extension notice will advise the requester that the Department requires prepayment of the estimated fees before it begins photocopying the requested record.